Taoiseach pays tribute to climber McKeever
on 03/01/2013 13:52:37
Ian McKeever, 42, was struck down in the freak tragedy as he led a group of hikers up Mount Kilimanjaro, one of many expeditions the experienced adventurer has organised on the Tanzanian peak.
Others in the group - mostly from Ireland - also hit by the lightning storm needed medical treatment for minor burns and shock, but their injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.
Mr Kenny said he was very saddened to hear of the death of Mr McKeever.
"I had come to know him over recent years and I admired him not only for his own achievements and charity work but also for his work with young people in challenging them to achieve their full potential," he said.
Mr Kenny recalled getting text updates from Mr McKeever when he led an expedition of students from schools in the Taoiseach's native Castlebar to Kilimanjaro's 5,895m-high summit.
"He was extremely passionate about what he did and driven in his belief that everybody can achieve their potential during their lifetime," he said.
"Ian said to me once that there was no place he would rather be than in the mountains.
"I would like to extend my sympathies to his fiancee Anna and his family, friends and fellow adventurers."
Arrangements are currently being made to make Mr McKeever's remains available to his family, some of whom are travelling to Tanzania.
His fiancee Anna was with him during the ill-fated climb.
Mountaineer Pat Falvey, who described the death as a complete and utter freak accident, said his friend was an inspiration to young people and a dreamer, who pushed himself to achieve very difficult goals.
"When I heard it last night I just couldn't believe that it happened where it has," he said.
"We've all lost friends in the high mountains, but to feel that he was doing what he was doing, helping and mentoring others to achieve goals, and in such a simple way, to be taken out of it," he said.
Adi Roche, of Chernobyl Children International, said Mr McKeever would always be one of her heroes and paid tribute to his enthusiasm, wisdom, humour, vibrancy and vision.
"He had unstoppable energy and had such a 'can do' philosophy in life," she said.
"He never saw a dark side to anything and met every challenge with sheer determination.
"Ian was a once-off model and after they created him they threw away the mould."
A lecturer and broadcaster from Lough Dan in Co Wicklow, Mr McKeever regularly mentored hikers, including many Irish schoolchildren, through his Kilimanjaro Achievers organisation.
The latest expedition set off to Tanzania from Ireland on December 28 and began their ascent the day before New Year's Eve.
In online updates, Mr McKeever wrote that there was torrential rain but spirits remained high among the hikers.
In his final post he said: "We pray for dryer weather tomorrow - the big day. It's the Lava Tower."
The Lava Tower is a landmark on the climb.
The adventurer was known for many feats, including scaling Mount Everest.
In 2008, he helped his then 10-year-old godson Sean McSharry become the youngest person in Europe to reach the top of Kilimanjaro.
Mr McKeever is the former holder of the record for completing the seven highest peaks in the world.
More recently he had been attempting, along with African climbing guide friend Samuel Kinsonga, to break the record for the fastest ascent of Kilimanjaro, as part of their anti-racism Black and White Makes Sense Campaign.
He was the author of two books Give Me Shelter and Give Me Heroes and was working on a third book Give Me 28 Days.
On his Facebook page last night, a statement said: "It is with deep regret, that we, Ian's family, fiancee Anna and friends, advise of his sudden death on Kilimanjaro, today, doing what he loved best."
The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed it was providing consular assistance.